Twitter Plot Summary: Dracula returns from the dead and begins anew his campaign of terror. Only Captain Scarlet can stop him.
There may have been a sequel to Hammer’s 1958 Dracula movie released in 1960 (The Brides of Dracula) but it would take until 1966 for him to make a return to screens in Hammer’s continuity. Unfortunately it seems that here he has almost been neutered and is presented as being little more than a shadow of his former self. But then, being killed will probably have that effect on you.
Dracula was never a man of many words, but here he’s devoid of any dialogue or character development beyond lusting over busty women and alternating between happy and sad faces. Beyond this he has little involvement in the plot. Indeed, much of that plot is dominated by Francis Matthews, better known in some circles as the voice of the original Captain Scarlet. He plays Charles, a man who chooses to visit Castle Dracula along with his wife and their friends despite the dire warnings from the locals. Clearly inherent stupidity is rampant in that social class. When things start going pear-shaped Charles seeks the help of the local religious order who, it handily transpires, are the people who have been warning the locals about Dracula for years. Even so, they turn out to be a mostly ineffectual force, knowing how to defeat the vampires but not proving to be good at doing so when they find their backs up against the wall.
Prince of Darkness marks the first time that Dracula had an issue with running water. Having seemingly written themselves into a corner, the only way to defeat the titular prince is by trapping him on a frozen lake. Then the film just ends, without the good nature of providing a worthwhile resolution. What was the outcome for Charles, other than defeating the otherworldly menace that tried to get its hands on his wife?
It does however leave the door wide open for a sequel, which inevitably followed. It’s evident that in this case the script wasn’t given as much thought than should have been the case, content with riffing off the first Hammer Dracula film rather than making any serious effort to branch out and do something genuinely worthwhile.
Christopher Lee of course remains a thoroughly enjoyable presence, further cementing his interpretation of the character in our collective consciousness. Without a word of dialogue he still manages to convey the danger that Dracula represents, yet also shows him as a vulnerable creature who may by this point only be operating on pure animal instinct rather than making a decision to prey on the weak. Whilst this is an effective device to use, it does leave you yearning for a return of the charming, sexual, sinister creature that he began as.
If there had been more effort to make this on par with their original 1958 effort then it would have made for a far better film. But then, you can’t help but think that Hammer were simply resting on their laurels at this point in their history, churning out a formulaic Dracula story simply to make a bit of money. It’s an easy trap to fall into, and clearly some quality control was sorely lacking.